Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Neighborhood/Parish 1936-40

Our Lady of Lourdes

For Stations of the cross on Fridays in Lent we were seated in church by classroom. The nuns kept us in order in church by sounding their clickers. When May came around each year, the month of Mary, Jesus’ mother we would participate in the May Crowning  processions  so exciting and unforgettable. This would take place in late afternoon. Each of us girls carried a fresh, fragrant and beautiful long stemmed pastel peony blossom into church in procession which we placed at Mother Mary’s altar.  
 An eighth grade girl would place the crown on Mary’s head, statue of Mary, that is.There was a grotto in a room west of the altar which we could also enter outside through an alleyway. It was dimly lit and a replica of the grotto at Lourdes, France, rocks and pool and running water, where Mother Mary appeared to Bernadette.
Grotto at Lourdes

Mother would often meet us afternoons when school dismissed following a visit to church with Jimmy in his stroller. They would say to us they had just visited the ‘Pretty Lady’. Once a year we would have a carnival on the school grounds over a weekend. Elayne discovered her lucky number to be ‘4’. I sometimes thought mine was ‘7’ but it failed me. My brother, Billy, as I referred to previously had this paralysis affecting his right arm and leg. I cannot get inside my mother’s brain to know to what extent she felt responsible for her little child’s handicap. I label it so, even though Billy never, ever allowed himself to be kept from participation in life. Mother prayed petitions. She wanted Billy cured. We would attend Perpetual Help Novenas at Lady of Lourdes which were ongoing every single Tuesday should she choose. However, there was an extremely popular novena going on at Our Lady of Sorrows Church with services every Friday evening. These novenas would consist of song, Benediction, sermon. There would be a small booklet containing the procedures or a song card or prayer card. At Our Lady of Sorrows’ peak in 1930, Friday Masses served about seventy thousand people and almost 1,000,000 copies of the church’s Novena Notes. On January 8, 1937, the Sorrowful Mother Novena began an era that would establish Chicago’s Our Lady of Sorrows as a Marian Shrine of national and international fame. Through the 1940’s and into the 1950’s the Great Novena filled the church weekly in up to 38 separate services. They prayed the Novena of Our Sorrowful Mother and the rosary all through the Great Depression and the war years.
"Pretty Lady"
One chilly, Saturday afternoon walking home from the beauty parlor 2 blocks away while her hair was still quite wet our Mother developed a terrible ear infection. There weren’t antibiotics in those days and the infection persisted a long time. The first safe antibiotics were discovered by a British scientist in 1945. Mother was bedridden often after this so Elayne and I took turns staying home from school to be with our little brother, Jimmy. The nuns were so cooperative. Mother had special relationships with these BVM nuns. They would talk at the doorway to the classroom for long periods of time. I wonder what about. This infection seemed to affect her overall health ever after.
Exact Stroller Boy Is Son Michael
I especially loved putting little Jimmy in his stroller and taking long walks. Mother trusted me completely. On Saturdays we would walk down Wilson Avenue, east,  towards the lake and north on Broadway, checking out what might be playing in the movie theaters . The nearest one on Wilson was the De Luxe Theater and admission would be 10 cents.

Broadway was a busy street with many shops, dead fowl hanging from hooks, feathers, beaks and all. The 2 theaters we would pass charged 15 cent, one the Uptown Theater.

Eventually, after s slow walk we would return home with the playbill announcement. 
If parents thought it good fare we could attend a movie that afternoon. There were many cowboy movies, Tom Mix, Gene Autry, Jesse James, sometimes Shirley Temple, and always a cartoon and a March of Time Newsreel, week’s review of what happened in Europe, Germany, France, England, Poland. My favorite- Shirley Temple movies. Young Shirley seen here.

Sometimes when on Broadway with our parents we would buy shoes. There was an x-ray machine which was such fun to look into and see our bony feet. These were later banned from stores as health hazards. On our walks beyond Broadway we'd come to the tip of Lincoln Park and beyond this Lake Michigan.
My little brother, Jimmy

One can see a bit of our house and Freddy’s, next door, on this special picture of little Jimmy. A man passed by one day when we were in school. He had this pony and a camera. Jimmy’s cousin Jack, about his age, has a similar pony picture.
On hot summer days we 3 could walk up to Wilson and catch a bus bound for Montrose Beach. Often the bus was a double decker.  Without parents checking us invariably we would stay out in the sun too long and have painful, blistered backs next day and a week following. Later in the summer there would be prohibitions from gathering on the beach at all as we entered polio season which we observed by not gathering in crowded spaces. When a child came down with contagious disease, whooping cough, measles, chicken pox, the health department would place a contagious disease sign in the front window warning off any visitor. We took swimming lessons at Amundsen High and one summer typing lessons.  There were many neighborhood friends, a number of them attending public school. We would play in our yard or out front. One holiday when running I tripped over a wire which was protecting the lawn, hit the edge of the concrete walk with my mouth and broke my front tooth in half. I ran to my mother who was beside herself with grief because I had ruined my appearance. I often wondered how the pain of my broken tooth and bloody mouth was a greater problem for her than for me. Another thing I recall were our trips a few blocks south and west in the other direction to buy ice cream cones, sometimes rainbow triple deckers. We saved any money we had to buy lead soldiers from a school store on Montrose. I referred to these lead soldiers previously, which we dramatically played with together, replacing our soda bottle caps. Dad made the basement of this 2 flat special for us kids, even though we were renters. He built 2 storage rooms so other than the furnace we had lots of play space marked off. He painted the walls to resemble red bricks. We played grocery store sometimes having some of the  ‘stuff’ from the West Allis grocery store. One day I stepped onto a nail in the furnace room and didn’t tell mother. I worried. I could get lockjaw. Slowly it healed and nothing else happened. Apparently I had a problem with slapping Billy when frustrated at play. I recall mother frequently chiding me to keep my hands to myself.  We had an old victrola on which we could play a few records. Elayne was showing artistic talent and mother was about ready to send her Saturdays to the Art Institute for lessons. Circumstances changed.  Billy took lessons in elocution at the Cummerford Studio at 4354 N. Ashland Ave. Chicago Academy of Theater Arts and Elayne and I had our dancing lessons, tap, ballet, gymnastics.  I loved my lessons but Elayne hated the lessons. I wanted to be a ballerina when I grew up. On a few occasions when our cousins, the Collin's, moved to Chicago and while mother and Aunt Flo were visiting on a Saturday morning I would teach MaryAnn the steps I learned in dancing school. She would pay me a dime. Mrs. Cummerford along with her husband ran this studio. I recall this one year [believe there was another] when we had prepared numbers with costumes for a show. This was to be on a stage in a neighborhood movie theater, the Uptown. I recall tickets needed. The film showing was Wuthering Heights. I think it was Friday evening. Friends and families attended. After the film ended the screen went up, next the curtains and we staged our performance. My sister has kept the theater bill on which we are listed as performers. One of the boy tap dancers listed is Bob Fosse who would later become a star and a Hollywood director.

Dad always took public transportation to and from work. On Saturdays he would get off the streetcar at Wiebolt's and buy special groceries, cheese, eggs and clothing for family. Once he found this great buy of white oxfords in sizes for Elayne and me. Only problem is they were definitely for boys. I hated those shoes and had to wear them even so. One year we tried our hands as entrepreneurs. With neighbor kids, we put on a fair in our basement for the entire neighborhood. Fair failed for mother let everyone in free. We bought our fresh bread from the bakery on Clark Street, around 2 corners and meat from the butcher shop nearby. We had no freezer. Often we stood in long lines within these shops. Grownups frequently sneaked ahead of us kids. Just wasn't fair. Today we'd say 'pushy broad'. In those days customers were waited on individually. There were no supermarkets. There was an A and P south on Montrose, west of Ashland.
We had milk delivery by horse and wagon

The milkman left the glass milk bottles on our doorstep, pasteurized though not homogenized with a 4” layer of cream on top. Other horse and wagons were the ice man and the rag man. We could play a game of baseball in Freddie's yard. He hadn't a mother, just older sisters and his dad. The back yard was dirt like an empty lot. Usually the games ended abruptly when a fight broke out. We had no referee.  I loved roller skating, spinning tops, Hi-Li, riding our bicycles, jump rope- M-i-s-s-i-s-s-i-p-i and many other, Spin tops,  Red Light Green Light, Stone Teacher, Captain May I-, Hop Scotch, playing War with marbles. If we were out front of our home neighbors would eventually gather.  Friends names I recall- Delores Wilson, Ilene, Tom and Genevieve Manning, Freddy Hartenberg next door, George and Jim O'Brien up the block toward Wilson, Georianne on the next corner, John and Lawrence Fogli. Jim now adds Bobby Dietrich and that Freddy used to stand outside and call Oooh-Oooh, Billy! We never phoned and no tex.  So real. If we wanted a playmate we would go to their home and call out for them. Mom or dad might call out the window, “Sorry, Billy is eating lunch now”. We lived here for 4 years packed with memory. A few times I went with Dolores to the YWCA for swim or dance lessons. We were not supposed to be there, you know, Protestants. One day after school my friend, Georgianne, walking home collapsed  and died that night from Spinal Meningitis.

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